by Bev Knuckey, Llanedeyrn Primary School
Teachers have developed processes in our school to ensure moderated assessment is consistent at each outcome and level. With oracy our priority, attention has been given to its assessment and management – the storing of recordings; how accessible they are for teachers and senior leaders; and the purpose of keeping them. We discovered that the speakers – the students themselves – were the only stakeholders that did not have access to any recordings; in fact, they had usually never heard them once recorded. This raised the question of what was the real purpose of recording the students and of storing this evidence. How was it impacting upon learning and teaching in our school? Where were our learners in this process? Should the students have access to these recordings so that they could hear themselves speak and through feedback try to improve? Hattie and Clark (2019) state that it is important to consider “not only the providing of feedback but teaching students (and teachers) how to interpret and use the feedback they are given”. If so, consideration should be given as to how this would be planned and introduced.
Some schools demonstrate a thorough collegiate approach ensuring that all teachers buy into the same ideology and the same processes; others believe that the teacher needs to develop what is right for their class. Covey (2008) maintains that, ‘…performers also want others to be held accountable. They thrive in an environment where they know that everyone is expected to step up and be responsible, where they can trust that slackers and poor performers won’t just slip by.’
It was important for our School to develop a process that was consistent for all so that mutual trust grew from knowing that everyone was working within a specified framework and identified standard.
- Would a step by step process enable pupils to evaluate their own oracy skills within a high-quality framework, or should teachers continue to assess oracy using the success criteria created in class?
- How will the training associated with delivering such a process impact upon the skills and practices of the teachers involved?
- To what extent does an oracy evaluation process enable students to assess and improve their own learning?
Quantitative data through 6 student interviews illustrated that, at the start of the year, no pupils were asked to evaluate their oracy work. Teachers’ comments were read and a way forward for learning agreed, but students had not heard any audio or watched any videos of themselves to self-assess and evaluate.
Students were asked what it meant to evaluate their oracy work; here are some illustrative responses:
‘I think I can do better Oracy work by looking over the work I’ve already done. But I don’t know how to do it.’Student E, Year 4
‘I would like to improve my Oracy work by looking at my mistakes and read more about it. There is not enough time and it is not clear how I can make my work better.’Student F, Year 4
When questioning teachers on their views, 100% of respondents stated that time to evaluate oracy was the biggest hurdle that they had encountered. Their ability to help students evaluate oracy was rated using a star scale. The chart below shows that most teachers felt that their skills in this aspect were low.
Teachers were asked what the problems of evaluating oracy were within a classroom setting. Here are some illustrative responses:
‘I’m not quite sure of how to evaluate it myself.’Teacher A
‘I think that other parts of the curriculum are more important’Teacher B
Intervention & Impact
Intervention covered three phases:
- Trialling a process of evaluation
- Training of staff
- Trialling the process within year groups
Our school had set up a Language, Literacy and Communication Team in line with the new Curriculum for Wales 2022 (Welsh Government, 2019). This team developed an evaluation process based on an 11-step approach after discussing how we should introduce it across a series of lessons (Appendix A). A Year 6 teacher trialled this within a context of students preparing for formal interviews. The process was reviewed before introducing it to staff during an INSET day. Each year group, teachers and learning support assistants, had time to plan out the process within their context for a half term (Appendices B and C).
This had to include three features from the oracy framework, for example – eye contact, flair and pace; and two oppositional words to develop vocabulary, for example – listless and lively. A two-week frame was given to staff so that the process was valued and embedded within the curriculum. Six quiet yet able students were selected as a focus for this research.
The intended impact was to develop a whole school approach to evaluating oracy through a systematic 11-step process, which became known as the Oracy Evaluation Process (see Appendix A).
Illustrative Student Comments:
First Evaluation Process of a Discussion and after watching Video 1:
‘I liked it when I was using sentence stems and I did share my opinion. I think that next time, I could use gestures and I could speak more clearly.’Student A, Year 2
First Evaluation Process of a Discussion and after watching Video 2:
‘I used gestures and I wasn’t hesitating. I spoke clearly. I was more confident because I practised with my prompt card. I could use more gestures with my hands. I could use the sentence stem to conclude – to finish the discussion.’Student A, Year 2
First Evaluation Process of a Persuasive Phone call:
‘The most difficult part of the process was the phone call because I kept getting stuck on words. I really had to practise so much. I found the scripts very helpful because I didn’t have to remember it off by heart. Next, I think I would benefit from practising thinking about my answers before I say them. Also, slowing my words so I do not hesitate as much.’Student B, Year 4
Second Evaluation Process of a Speech:
‘During my speech, I spoke fluently and at a good pace, but I could have a better use of timing. This would add impact to my speech changing the tone and volume in my voice will make me more passionate. I kept eye contact but I could improve my body language. My work was organised and I gave reasons to support my views.’Student C, Year 6
First Evaluation Process of an Interview:
‘When I first watched and listened to myself speaking, it was embarrassing. I didn’t like hearing my own voice, it didn’t sound like me…I was worried about what my friends would say but I realised that only by watching myself…I see how I improve and what I needed to work on. I definitely would not feel so nervous during this process next time.’Student D, Year 6
Second Evaluation Process of a Speech:
‘During my speech, I believe I spoke fluently and clearly and at a good pace for the majority of my speech. To further improve, I need to maintain my speed of my voice throughout the whole speech. On one occasion I thought that I spoke too fast. I felt more composed which improved my body language and posture but I can still add more passion and flair. Looking back at my previous Oracy work, I can see that I have greatly improved.’Student D, Year 6
Illustrative teacher comments:
‘By breaking down each step the children are able to evaluate and highlight what they did well and what they need to do to improve. The quality of Oracy in my class has significantly risen due to using this process.’Teacher C
‘Using the Oracy Evaluative Process has been instrumental in allowing me to develop more independent learners in my class. The meticulous nature of it has given me a precise indication of the areas I need to focus on.’Teacher D
‘The children are in charge of their learning and progress because they are seeing what needs to be improved and are making the changes for themselves. More powerful than me telling them.’Teacher E
I ensured that students and teachers were happy to share their evaluations within a wider community. Students, parents and teachers were asked verbally and the permission to withdraw was offered. However, consent was given. I waited until after the inquiry as I did not want it to influence their behaviour or engagement in the research.
Without a control group, I cannot be sure that the students would not have evaluated their oracy as clearly as they have in the absence evaluative process. However, it is clear that using this process that has had significant effects upon students’ cognition and engagement in the process of evaluation and review. The qualitative data emphasises this and demonstrates an awareness of how to evaluate oracy and what to improve upon the next time.
Qualitative data also suggests that the development of teachers’ knowledge and skills in supporting students in an evaluative process was one of the most tangible outcomes from this project.
Key outcomes and project impact
- Increases in student thinking and reviewing of their work and the development of their ability to assess their next steps for learning.
- Increases in teacher understanding and skills in application of the Oracy Evaluation Process that support students to become independent thinkers and to develop their assessment skills.
- Strengthened a collegiate approach across the Whole School through a known process with planned links to the Oracy Framework and with associated vocabulary choices.
- The Oracy Evaluative Process is now mapped out across the School for a two-week period each term linked to the Language, Literacy and Communication curriculum.
One of the key outcomes of this project was to revisit the idea that often change has to be implemented systematically and with training; it needs time for supported planning and implementation; and a final review for teachers to feel confident and engaged in its delivery alongside the underlying idea that this work is alive and evolving not complete. The fact that all teachers were held to the same standard through an agreed process increased the idea of being held accountable for their students’ development in oracy evaluation. Time within a busy curriculum is crucial for the work to be valued and embedded within the curriculum and to be seen as a vital aspect of the learning.
Covey, Stephen M.R. (2008) The Speed of Trust, Pocket Books Business
Gaunt, A and Stott, A (2018) Transform Teaching and Learning Through Talk: The Oracy Imperative, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Hattie, J and Clarke, C (2019) Visible Learning Feedback, Routledge
Welsh Government (2019) Draft Curriculum for Wales 2022. Available at: https://hwb.gov.wales/draft-curriculum-for-wales-2022/a-guide-to-curriculum-for-wales-2022/
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